Friday, June 29, 2012

A Productivity Tip Challenge

A sample of one of my scans
My fellow genealogist, Susan Petersen, has gotten me thinking a lot about technology today. Technology makes me think about productivity because for me technology is a just a tool to reach that goal.

While on the topic of technology and productivity I thought I would issue a productivity challenge for a little bit of fun.

This challenge involves sharing one productivity tip or solution that has worked for you.  It doesn't have to be earth shattering or the best tip, just a change that impacted the way you do genealogical research for the better.

Here's my challenge to bloggers - write a blog post and include one productivity tip. It doesn't have to be technology related but it does have to show how you improved the way you research.  Then come back here and put the url to your post in the comments.

If you are not a blogger you can leave your tip or solution in the comments.  Then after a week I'll write a summary of all the posts and tips.

I can't wait to hear what you guys come up with! Remember, keep it simple, short and sweet because the idea is to have fun.

Marian's Productivity Tip

This tip is really specific so it might not make sense for everyone but I still love it anyway.

There is a local probate court that I go to that hands me the original probate file packets when I visit for research.  The files contain anywhere from 1 to 100 pages.  The photocopies at the probate court are 25 cents each. Sometimes I pull 5-10 files at a time. In order to conserve money I would often skip photocopying the outside of the documents (with their helpful descriptions) or what seem to be less important pages (famous last words).

My Canon LiDE210
Then I received a tip from my ProGen colleagues about a portable scanner - the Canon LiDE210. I checked online and was able to purchase for $82.99 (with free shipping).

When it arrived I took it for a test run at the probate court. The probate clerk handed me the same original file packets but this time I was able to sit down at a table and more quickly scan all the documents.  And not only did I get better quality scans but I was able to scan *every* page.

The first day out I scanned 300 pages.  At a rate of 25 centers per page that's a total of $75 in savings.  I went back later in the week and scanned another 300 pages.   Already I had saved the cost of the scanner.

While not every court or archive is going to let you bring in a portable flatbed scanner, if you have the option you will save money, streamline your work, reduce overall time by not having to scan photocopies later and have better quality documents which you can zoom in on your computer.  This is my favorite productivity tip for the last 6 months.

What's your favorite tip?


  1. It began when I started searching in the Slovakia, Church and Synagogue Books on At the time, there was no index available for these records. Even now, there is only a partial index which seems to fall short of including records of the villages from which my family originates. So, browsing the records was and, for me, remains the way to search.

    Initially I would start searching for a specific record, such as my grandfather, Janos Kocsis’ baptism record. Browsing the records online was much like browsing the film strips at the local Family History Center – except that I had my coffee maker in the next room to help fuel the search. And, just like browsing the film, before I located the record that I wanted I generally seemed to find other records for other relatives. While I appreciated the extra finds, they were a bit of a distraction, causing me to refer back to my existing information regarding the found person.

    Eventually, it occurred to me to click the Evernote Web Clipper when encountering one of these extra finds. I clipped the URL rather than saving an image of the page, and assigned the collection name, book title and image number as the title of the note. I also decided that tagging the note with the person’s name would prove helpful. By using the person’s name as a tag rather than as the note title, I could identify several persons associated with a single note. For example, on a marriage record, the bride, groom and each of their parents’ names could all be tagged on the same note.

    In this way, I could browse a complete book and then review the material saved in Evernote to print the records and update my files as needed. This process proved to be much more efficient that bouncing back and forth between and Legacy Family Tree. It works so well that now I’m using it for searching the Croatia Church Books that FamilySearch put on line on June 19th, again without an index.

    1. I use Evernote in a similar way with other sites - but I just select/highlight the section of the page I need, Control-C to copy that, then paste it into a note in Evernote. I like your idea of tagging the note with individual names.

    2. Great tip! I had never thought to use it that way.

  2. Great idea! One tip I've blogged about before is an idea I heard during a webinar and took another step: the post below contains info and a link to a table where you can enter a family's names and birth dates and it will calculate their ages for all of the censuses that follow their birth. I've found it helpful to see the likely ages of the whole group at once when trying to find them in a given census later.

    The table I created is usable online or downloadable for people to use locally with Excel or Open Office:

  3. You know it had never occurred to me to create a chart like that but boy it sure does look helpful! I have already downloaded and saved it. This may be a silly question but why doesn't it start with 1790. I know they don't have exact dates before 1850 but you would still want to figure out how old your ancestor was to see if they fit into the pre 1850 ranges.

    1. I personally don't have anyone here that early, so it was just how I set it up when I began...
      But, the way I wrote it you can just copy the columns to the right (with the formulas in them) and then change just the first year to 1790 in the top row - the rest of the years are created using the row to the left +10.

      I've already done it in my online version so you can just re-download it there. I suppose I should take into account mid decade state censuses too since I'm always rooting around in the NY State ones ending in 5!

    2. I bought an extra set of rechargeable batteries for my Flip Pal. I can pop in the new batteries and keep scanning while the first set charges. Scanning is not my favorite thing so I need to be able to keep going and not have an excuse to stop.

  4. One tip that I use a LOT is to install the freeware Dropbox on my home computer. Then I download their free app for my smart phone. Before I head out on any genealogy research trip, I just put a copy of all files, normally an entire family surname's file of all associated documents, into my Dropbox folder so that all those files are now accessible where ever I have a cellphone signal. That is good for up to 2 GB's of information.

    To take things to the next level, my computer and all my genealogy files are backed up online now for a reasonable fee with Carbonite and they too have a free app which means that I have access to all my genealogy files wherever I have a cellphone signal.

    Using both of those utilities with my smart phone has come in handy more times that I can count away from home and my computer.

  5. There is a wonderful little app for iPhones/iPads called "scan pages." it does exactly as it says: it scans pages to jpg or text, and it will also export to google docs. The scans can be set to your email.